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Category Archives: happiness project

my june resolution

this will be simple. i will be brief. my resolution for june is to focus. i’m reading leo babauta’s book. while i love the ideas, i could have come up with most of them on my own. but that’s not the point – the point is that he took the time to write it down, to state the obvious instead of just assuming the obvious, and by stating it, by suggesting it, made me realize that knowing is different from doing.

focus is about single-tasking. it’s about living efficiently and deliberately. it’s about appreciating each moment and thinking carefully about how to spend time. it’s about slowing down and loving and living life more.


going veggie

i have been a vegetarian for about six weeks now.

why have i decided to be a vegetarian?

simply put: it’s healthier. i don’t like meat that much.

the added benefits?

i don’t feel guilty about eating animals, and it’s better for the environment.

however, as harsh as it sounds, one person does not make that much difference. what really counts is getting large number of people to give up meat, and that’s not part of my agenda. this choice¬† is for my benefit and my reasons. personally, i have a problem with animal cruelty to the extent that eating meat bothered me. does it bother me when other people eat meat? a little, but i feel hypocritical to say so since i was one of them not too long ago. it’s a personal decision and i can only speak for my own experience.

and i love it so far.

i like lambs. i don't want to eat them.

and i don't want chikens to live like this. images from "food inc." helped solidify my decision.

what were my initial concerns?

there are certain foods i could not imagine giving up – burgers, spaghetti with meat sauce, bacon and sausages for full english…but when i realized that i can substitute veggie burgers for burgers, quorn for ground beef, and veggie sausages, mushrooms, and tomatoes for bacon and sausages, this was no longer a problem.

i’m also quite the foodie and was worried about missing out on interesting gourmet options. in oxford at least, there are plenty of delicious vegetarian options that i hardly notice. in my college hall, the vegetarian dish is almost always much better than the meat one anyway (for this, i am quite fortunate), and i would opt for it even before i decided to commit to vegetarianism.

gourmet burger kitchen does amazing veggie burgers.

how do i manage to eat a balanced diet without meat?

i have done some research, including monitoring my daily intake, and was surprised to find that i have been consuming enough protein without meat without even trying to replace it. i love eggs and beans (and nutella), and eat enough every day to fulfill my daily requirement. what i lacked was actually fruits and vegetables, which are now much more incorporated into my diet. it was not difficult to start eating healthily once i became better aware of what healthy entails.

while nutritional needs vary person to person, i use this chart as a basic guideline.

defining vegetarianism

calling myself a vegetarian was sort of scary, just like calling myself a minimalist. there were periods before i decided to commit (to both) in which i shied away from the idea and didn’t even consider it. ultimately, the extent to which you are a vegetarian or a minimalist is up to you. some vegetarians eat fish, for example. now, i don’t like fish enough for that to be my exception. my initial plan was to eat meat occasionally when i wanted it – better that than keeping a few cravings from calling myself a full vegetarian – but i haven’t even wanted to do that.

where to look for help

many of my favorite bloggers are vegetarian or vegan and have shared their stories and offered advice:

leo babauta – mnmlist

angela liddon – oh she glows

alicia silverstone – the kind life

reflections on the nature of my happiness project

despite the fact that the last time i mentioned my happiness project was in february, i have been keeping up with it. january was about vitality, february about friendships, march about schoolwork, and april about creativity. i chose four specific goals per category per month, and it was highly effective.

however, it sort of clashed with minimalism. since the project is cumulative, by april i was guaranteed sixteen boxes to check on my to do list each day. and i became overwhelmed.

i have stopped drawing up charts and i have stopped forcing myself to go through my list of goals each night. i am, however, continuing the project. i find that the goals i set are on my mind regardless of whether i hold myself accountable to a check box system.

from here onwards i will have “monthly resolutions” instead of categories with specific goals. it will vary month to month. a lot of my goals fit better into the sections of my year (when i’m at uni and when i’m home) than into specific months anyway.

for may, my goal is to eat no meat. that’s right, i’m going veggie, a movement that i will explain in its own post soon.

reflections on january’s happiness project

at the beginning of this month i started my happiness project 2011. i found the most useful advice from gretchen rubin’s book to be “act how you want to feel” (i.e. acting energetic) and “identify the problem.” here’s what i learned about the goals i set for this month:

  • go to sleep by 12:15am – 64% success

going to sleep and waking up consistently sets structure in my day. the best habit i gained from this is to wake up as soon as i hear my alarm clock (at minimal student‘s recommendation, i use alarm tunes). i make exceptions to the 12:15 bedtime only for the sake of de-stressing: there is no point in trying to go to sleep when i know i won’t be able to due to stress. this could mean staying up an extra 20 minutes to read in bed or an extra hour to get caught up in work. focus for continuing next month: go to bed as close to 12:15 as possible instead of staying up even later just because i missed the numeric deadline.

  • exercise daily – 57% success

the most challenging part of exercising is fitting it into my schedule. the most effective adjustments i have made regard posture: always sitting up or standing up straight keeps me energized and is better for my body. i also embrace the opportunity to walk since i’m in a city. instead of looking up a store’s hours, i take five minutes to walk over and check. more rigorous exercise however, is also more difficult. i enjoy running outdoors, but only at 40 degrees fahrenheit or warmer. i have been trying to go to yoga, but it never seems to fit into my schedule. focus for continuing next month: go to yoga at least once a week and climb more stairs.

  • be organized – 96% success

my biggest challenge here has been moving into a new room this term. i am just now getting used to my organizational system in the new space. my current routine is to clear all the surfaces (my desk, chair, coffee table, and seating area) and fill the kettle and water filter before going to sleep. i have also worked out a calendar system in which i use my google calendar, which syncs to ical, which syncs to my iphone. this works better in the states where my iphone is my actual phone, allowing me to carry one device instead of two and to have a more updated calendar online. focus for continuing next month: clean out my email inboxes each morning and go through my to-do drawer at least in part every night.

  • eat well – 57% success

the problem i have identified is my tendency to over-eat just to finish my plate. this habit has developed because of my living situation – without easy access to the large refrigerator and microwave i have at home, my options are eat it or throw it out, and that seems like such a waste. i have improved on eating only what i want to eat though: when i crave a certain food i eat it, because i know that if i eat something else, i’ll end up eating what i wanted originally in addition to what i didn’t actually want. now that i’ve been paying attention i can usually tell when i want/need protein or vegetables or fruit – i’ve been surprised to realize that i am not always in the mood for chocolate. focus for continuing next month: always carry a small snack and storage container in my bag.

refining my exercise goals

as part of my happiness project 2011, i am incorporating exercise into each day. i know that it isn’t a very original goal, but as it is part of my ‘vitality’ month i appreciate it more in context of overall health and energy.

my goal is to exercise a little each day, and whether or not i give myself a check mark at the end of the day depends on simply whether it ‘feels as if i’ve done enough’ – and this actually works for me.

my other criteria is that i find enjoyable ways to exercise. when i was at home i did ddr on my wii. here i walk more, but walking isn’t enough. so at the moment i’m looking to start new fun ways to exercise and i have two in mind:

1. yoga. i love yoga, and i’ve done some with a dvd at home. there is a yoga class not too far away that meets pretty regularly. i tried to go this morning, but couldn’t bring myself to get up so early and walk in the cold to get there, let alone the vigor required from yoga itself. solution? it seems simple – the early bird classes are not for me. since i’m fortunate enough to have many options, i’ll try to attend an afternoon or evening session instead.

2. running. i actually enjoy running. there are two problems with it though – the lack of defined challenge, and bothering to get dressed to go. the second problem seems kind of silly, but that doesn’t make it any less legitimate. i haven’t quite worked out a solution to this one except to choose a specific time each week to go and not give myself the choice. the difficulty with this, though, is weather. it’s often too cold to run outdoors. i’d say 40 degrees fahrenheit is about my limit. the first problem is more easily addressable. i will set myself a goal now of being able to run for thirty straight minutes. i don’t know where i stand right now, but thirty minutes sounds reasonable enough.

happiness project 2011: january begins

this year i am starting fresh by following gretchen rubin’s happiness challenge 2011. her book the happiness project was my favourite book of 2010.

i’m making monthly resolutions based on the categories she chose for her happiness project. for each category i will assign four personal goals and mark my progress daily in a chart i keep in my journal. i will also spend the month coming up with specific strategies to tackle each goal.

the theme for january is vitality. my four goals:

  • go to sleep by 12:15am
  • exercise daily
  • be organized
  • eat well

i chose to go to sleep by 12:15 am because it is a realistic time that i can meet every night. although i prefer going to sleep earlier, especially with such early sunset times in boston and england winter, i often go to plays at night, causing me to get back to my room as late as eleven o’clock sometimes. i want to allow plenty of time for me to complete my bedtime routine. i’ve read many articles that say going to bed at the same time each day is better for your health, so i want to be as consistent as possible.

exercise daily” is vague because i can’t do the same exercise routine every day. when i am at university i go for a walk every morning for an hour, but when i’m at home this is less feasible. i wrote this goal as flexibly as possible, while still restricting it to a daily exercise, to allow me to find new fun ways to get in some fitness every day.

it isn’t hard for me to be organized because i am already a very organized person. but holding myself accountable for being organized every day reminds me that it is both enjoyable and necessary. gretchen rubin suggested a 10-minute cleanup before bed. i tried it last night and it felt wonderful to put everything in its place; it’s definitely staying in my bedtime routine. this category also applies to minimalism. every day i will make some effort to organize, declutter, and minimize my possessions, digital commitments, and daily schedules.

my resolution to eat well is certainly broad, but i don’t have to lay out specifics to know if i’ve followed it each day. as a “foodie,” the process of being conscious of the quality of food i eat will be an enjoyment in itself. i’m starting with ridding myself of bad habits slowly.

i will continue to update my goals as i better understand them each week. i’m hoping that monthly resolutions grouped by category will be manageable and beneficial (although i am actually good at sticking to resolutions – about five years ago i vowed to write in my journal every day and i have done so ever since). happy new year and good luck to everyone with new resolutions!